03 April, 2010


Cooking the books

Wandering around the Web, I happened upon this piece from last September at Liberal Conspiracy by "Left Outside", in which he reflects upon the stereotypes used to channel hostility towards recent immigrants. Much of what he says is a fair description of common reactions, some of which I would say might be fuelled by reasonable and genuine fears and concerns while other reactions might indeed be straightforward xenophobia, often whipped up by demagogues and rabble-rousers. On the whole, though, I'm not entirely convinced by his overall underlying attitude that it'll all come right in the end with the new arrivals all becoming economically prolific gorblimey coconuts.

But the OP is not what interests me on this occasion. Rather this comment from "Donut Hinge Party", (whose writing style, restrained enough here but more commonly startlingly and vacuously abusive, sounds very much like the tedious and smug Daniel Hoffman-Gill, a regular commenter at LC, but that's a conspiracy theory for another day). Responding to another commenter who had alluded to the UK's disproportionately numerous non-White prison population, "DHP" writes

2009: Total in Prison: 68,488

2001 census (sorry about mixing dates), my MRS tutor would spank me.

White British = 85.67%

A proportionate level of non-white British population would be 9,800

“White males made up 84 per cent of the male prison population of British nationals in England and Wales in 2002. Black British nationals accounted for 11 per cent of the sentenced population in prison”

That’s pretty close, and bearing in mind that recent immigrants (who are the current betes noir, rather than old Mr Patel who used to be a conductor and now runs a corner shop) tend to be younger and maler than the general populace (who ARE more pre-disposed to crime) they’re actually doing pretty well.


"White British = 85.67%", he avers. At a casual glance, that certainly lines up nicely with his quote that "White males made up 84% of the male prison population of British nationals ... in 2002". But wait a minute. That 85.67% figure seems suspiciously low. On Internet fora and in the media, pro-immigrationists are for ever reminding us how vanishingly small is the ethnic minority population, and a different figure is burned into my consciousness. Ah, here it is: at the time of the 2001 census, 92.1% of the population was White. So where's he getting the 85.67% from? I can't immediately find this precise number, but this gives a clue: "87% of the population of England ... give their ethnic origin as White British". Presumably then the 85.67% figure represents "White British" across the UK as a whole. A further 6.4% of the population must therefore have been "White Irish" or "White Other".

So DHP is comparing "White British" in the overall population against "White of all origins", or more precisely "White of all origins with British nationality", in the prison population. Naughty.

It gets worse. Our eminent statistician now parlays the 14.33% (non-)(White British) into 14.33% (non-White)(British) and plugs this into the prison stats, where we find that 11% of the prisoners in 2002 are indeed Black. Wait a minute: "Black", not "non-White" but "Black". A further 5% or so are classified as "Asian", "Chinese" or "God knows".

So DHP would have us believe that in 2001/02, 11% of the prison population was Black, which I suspect he wants us to sloppily read as non-White (after all, all them Darkies look the same to us, innit?), as against 14% in the wider community, so "proving" that Blacks, non-Whites, whatever, are more law abiding than the White population.

A more honest analysis suggests that, on 2001/02 figures, the non-White 8% of the population contributed 16% of the prison population. Furthermore, looking at the census breakdown by ethnicity, Blacks as such represented only 30% of the wider "ethnic" population, suggesting that they are overrepresented in our prisons by a factor of approximately 4.

Of course, the prison figures relate only to "British nationals". How many of our prisoners are yer actual foreigners and how the ethnic breakdown pans out is, to re-use my earlier phrase, a conspiracy theory for another day.

Amazing what you can do with statistics and selective citation, innit?

Last time I looked, two years back, getting on for 14% of the E&W prison population were foreign nationals.


Thanks for the personal attack, just to be clear, I only ever comment under my own name thanks.


Welcome to my humble blog. I apologize for the delay in noticing your comment - I really must tighten up my routine for monitoring the email account associated with the blog.

On the off chance that you might happen by to read it, here is a response to your comment.

I accept your assurance that you post only under variants of your own name and that Donut Hinge Party is not your sockpuppet. The alleged association was a bit of a long shot and, if I am honest, was motivated primarily by the opportunity it offered to attack you at the same time as critiquing DHP's selective "statistics".

As to the personal attack on "the tedious and smug Daniel Hoffman-Gill", I'm afraid you bring it on yourself.

In my admittedly less than exhaustive reading of posts and comments at Liberal Conspiracy, I have rarely seen you offer a substantive comment that contributed to the debate. Your comments have consisted almost exclusively of supercilious abuse or sneering condescension. They might be paraphrased respectively as "Right-wingers are evil thuggish wankers who ought to be exterminated" and "You have to pity these poor right-wingers, they don't have the intelligence to think straight".

If you insist on lowering the quality of your input to the same level as the vacuously abusive whining of sally at LC or as the only marginally more articulate KJB at Pickled Politics, then I fear you must expect a certain measure of disrespect in return.

You have every right to your opinion of me, based as it is on only a handful of comments on a website, where you've clearly missed the ones where I have contributed something to the debate.

But it isn't worth much.

And no idea you were an arbiter of the place?

I'll hold back my opinion of you based on these slim facts you'll be glad to know.

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